The regular season is in the books and the Bulls will at least share a piece of the best record in this shortened season and have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Its been a different year for all 30 teams throughout the league, but even with some concerns going into the postseason regarding the health of reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls feel they are better equipped for this postseason run as opposed to last season.
We have more scoring this year, said Tom Thibodeau. Last year, Derrick, we really relied heavily on his scoring to give ourselves a good chance to win. This year, Derrick doesnt have to score like that. We have a number of guys who can score the ball. Its a more balanced attack. Having six guys who can score in double figures helps a lot.
Probably the biggest difference from last year is we had guys up front that were coming off of injury and now our guys up front have been healthy all year. The injuries have been to the guys in the backcourt. Our bench has been great all season long. I think Derrick is feeling, probably, better than he has in a long time, so thats a big plus and Rip Hamilton has gotten his legs under him. We just have to be ready to go.
It seems almost every one of the 14 players on the roster has stepped up at some point during the season when someone was injured. No matter if it was Rose, Deng or Hamilton, the depth of the team truly shined when it was most needed.
It just shows that our coaching staff and organization put a core group together where 1 through 14 can flat-out play, said John Lucas III. "Everybody has confidence and one thing about this team is we all have each others back.
"Nobody gets down; we all want to see each other succeed. We have great chemistry. Mentally, were right there and now its time. Now the season really starts. Were excited and we feel like we have unfinished business to attend to.
Fifty wins in a 66 game season is very impressive, but as last year showed, the leagues best record doesnt mean anything when everybody goes back to 0-0.
Theres also the fact that their Bulls' starting lineup has only played in just 15 games together, which may or may not have a significant impact at some point during the postseason.
I think weve played well enough to do well in the playoffs, said Carlos Boozer. Our chemistry is very good and I think we been able to use our practices to come along and get over the hump on having guys out.
"We had a couple of different guys out at different times, but we been able to play through it because we practice well and were a deep team, so it worked out good.
All eyes are sure to be on Rose when the postseason starts as many will look to see some form of the offensive dominance he displayed last postseason, but this year, the feeling within the Bulls locker room is he doesnt have to be that player.
Were so much spread out now, said Boozer. Obviously, hes our closer and our MVP, but were so deep. We have four or five other guys who can get you 20 points on a given night. Weve been able to gel with him and surround him with a lot of talent and a lot of players who can score the ball. Then when the game is on the line, you know where the ball is going and he comes through for us time and time again.
Hes not 100 percent but hes going to play with everything that he has and its a lot better than other guys have. Well take that.